Some Mormons Search the Web and Find Doubt

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/21/us/some-mormons-search-the-web-and-find-doubt.html?hp

By
Published: July 20, 2013

In the small but cohesive Mormon community where he grew up, Hans Mattsson was a solid believer and a pillar of the church. He followed his father and grandfather into church leadership and finally became an “area authority” overseeing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints throughout Europe.

When fellow believers in Sweden first began coming to him with information from the Internet that contradicted the church’s history and teachings, he dismissed it as “anti-Mormon propaganda,” the whisperings of Lucifer. He asked his superiors for help in responding to the members’ doubts, and when they seemed to only sidestep the questions, Mr. Mattsson began his own investigation.

But when he discovered credible evidence that the church’s founder, Joseph Smith, was a polygamist and that the Book of Mormon and other scriptures were rife with historical anomalies, Mr. Mattsson said he felt that the foundation on which he had built his life began to crumble.

Around the world and in the United States, where the faith was founded, the Mormon Church is grappling with a wave of doubt and disillusionment among members who encountered information on the Internet that sabotaged what they were taught about their faith, according to interviews with dozens of Mormons and those who study the church.

“I felt like I had an earthquake under my feet,” said Mr. Mattsson, now an emeritus area authority. “Everything I’d been taught, everything I’d been proud to preach about and witness about just crumbled under my feet. It was such a terrible psychological and nearly physical disturbance.”

Mr. Mattsson’s decision to go public with his disaffection, in a church whose top leaders commonly deliberate in private, is a sign that the church faces serious challenges not just from outside but also from skeptics inside.

Greg Prince, a Mormon historian and businessman in Washington who has held local leadership positions in the church, shares Mr. Mattsson’s doubts. “Consider a Catholic cardinal suddenly going to the media and saying about his own church, ‘I don’t buy a lot of this stuff,’ ” Mr. Prince said. “That’s the level we’re talking about here.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/21/us/some-mormons-search-the-web-and-find-doubt.html?hp

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Ken Cuccinelli’s War on Oral Sex

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michelangelo-signorile/ken-cuccinelli-oral-sex_b_3639244.html


07/23/2013

Sherri Shepherd of ABC’s “The View'” has not exactly been the most ardent champion of gay rights in the past, having supported Proposition 8 in 2008. But yesterday on the show she commented that if Virginia GOP gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli — who is intent on reinstating Virginia’s Crimes Against Nature law — really thinks oral sex (between any two people) is the same as gay sex, then she, a self-professed evangelical Christian, “is gayer than a gay two-dollar bill.”

Is this really where the GOP is going in 2013, taking on straight sex too? And that raises yet another question: Is it time for a reporter to ask Cuccinelli, currently the Virginia attorney general, if he’s ever engaged in cunnilingus or had anyone go down on him? Is American politics truly headed in that direction as the GOP defies political analysts as well as the beliefs and practices of the vast majority of Americans and continues to pander to extremists within in its base?

In 2012, we saw two political candidates who could not have been more starkly different on gay rights and some predicted it was the last time we’d see it. President Obama supported marriage equality, while Mitt Romney supported a constitutional ban on gay marriage. When Romney lost, and as polls showed majority support in the country for gay marriage, political analysts, pundits and even the Republican National Committee chair himself, Reince Preibus, predicted GOP candidates would need to change the tone on gay rights. After the Supreme Court’s gay marriage rulings last month, the predictions only continued, with some even saying that momentum in the Republican Party is moving toward changing with the times.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case despite three GOP senators coming out for marriage equality. After potential presidential contender Rick Perry’s recent railing against the Boy Scouts, and possible presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul’s warning that gay marriage could lead to marriage with “non-humans,” we now have Cuccinelli doubling down in a debate over the weekend on his 2009 comments that homosexuality is “harmful” and “soulless.” More than that, just when you thought there couldn’t be two opponents in a race as vastly different on gay issues as Romney and Obama, the race in Virginia is simply incredible.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michelangelo-signorile/ken-cuccinelli-oral-sex_b_3639244.html

See Also:

Raw Story: Dear Mrs. Ken Cuccinelli: Please stop asking your husband for oral for the sake of the rest of Virginia

Raw Story: Even Barbara Walters is mystified by the GOP candidate who wants to outlaw oral sex in Virginia

Think Progress: Virginia Gubernatorial Candidate Campaigns On Effort To Restore Ban On Oral Sex

Salon: Ken Cuccinelli: Keeping the war on sodomy alive!

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Politically Corrected! Food Stamps being Goody-Bag Giveaway

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Detroit, the New Greece

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/22/opinion/krugman-detroit-the-new-greece.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&_r=0

By
Published: July 21, 2013

When Detroit declared bankruptcy, or at least tried to — the legal situation has gotten complicated — I know that I wasn’t the only economist to have a sinking feeling about the likely impact on our policy discourse. Was it going to be Greece all over again?

Clearly, some people would like to see that happen. So let’s get this conversation headed in the right direction, before it’s too late.

O.K., what am I talking about? As you may recall, a few years ago Greece plunged into fiscal crisis. This was a bad thing but should have had limited effects on the rest of the world; the Greek economy is, after all, quite small (actually, about one and a half times as big as the economy of metropolitan Detroit). Unfortunately, many politicians and policy makers used the Greek crisis to hijack the debate, changing the subject from job creation to fiscal rectitude.

Now, the truth was that Greece was a very special case, holding few if any lessons for wider economic policy — and even in Greece, budget deficits were only one piece of the problem. Nonetheless, for a while policy discourse across the Western world was completely “Hellenized” — everyone was Greece, or was about to turn into Greece. And this intellectual wrong turn did huge damage to prospects for economic recovery.

So now the deficit scolds have a new case to misinterpret. Never mind the repeated failure of the predicted U.S. fiscal crisis to materialize, the sharp fall in predicted U.S. debt levels and the way much of the research the scolds used to justify their scolding has been discredited; let’s obsess about municipal budgets and public pension obligations!

Or, actually, let’s not.

Are Detroit’s woes the leading edge of a national public pensions crisis? No. State and local pensions are indeed underfunded, with experts at Boston College putting the total shortfall at $1 trillion. But many governments are taking steps to address the shortfall. These steps aren’t yet sufficient; the Boston College estimates suggest that overall pension contributions this year will be about $25 billion less than they should be. But in a $16 trillion economy, that’s just not a big deal — and even if you make more pessimistic assumptions, as some but not all accountants say you should, it still isn’t a big deal.

So was Detroit just uniquely irresponsible? Again, no. Detroit does seem to have had especially bad governance, but for the most part the city was just an innocent victim of market forces.

What? Market forces have victims? Of course they do. After all, free-market enthusiasts love to quote Joseph Schumpeter about the inevitability of “creative destruction” — but they and their audiences invariably picture themselves as being the creative destroyers, not the creatively destroyed. Well, guess what: Someone always ends up being the modern equivalent of a buggy-whip producer, and it might be you.

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/22/opinion/krugman-detroit-the-new-greece.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&_r=0

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Don’t buy the right-wing myth about Detroit

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2013/07/23/dont_buy_the_right_wing_myth_about_detroit/

Conservatives want you to think high taxes drove people away. The real truth is much worse for their radical agenda

By
Tuesday, Jul 23, 2013

In the wake of Detroit’s bankruptcy, you may be wondering: How could anyone be surprised that a city so tied to manufacturing faces crippling problems in an era that has seen such an intense public policy assault on domestic American manufacturing? You may also be wondering: How could Michigan officials possibly talk about cutting the average $19,000-a-year pension benefit for municipal workers while reaffirming their pledge of $283 million in taxpayer money to a professional hockey stadium?

These are fair questions — and the answers to them can be found in the political mythology that distorts America’s economic policymaking.

As mythology goes, the specific story being crafted about Detroit’s bankruptcy is truly biblical — more specifically, just like the fact-free mythology around the Greek financial collapse, it is copied right from the chapter in the conservative movement’s bible about how to distort crises for maximum political effect.

In the conservative telling of this particular parable, Detroit faces a fiscal emergency because high taxes supposedly drove a mass exodus from the city, and the supposedly unbridled greed of unions forced city leaders to make fiscally irresponsible pension promises to municipal employees. Written out of the tale is any serious analysis of macroeconomic shifts, international economic policy failures, the geography of recent recessions and unsustainable corporate welfare spending.

This is classic right-wing dogma — the kind that employs selective storytelling to use a tragic event as a means to radical ends. In this case, the ends are — big shocker! — three of the conservative movement’s larger long-term economic priorities: 1) preservation of job-killing trade policies 2) immunity for corporations and 3) justification for budget policies that continue to profligately subsidize the rich.

Pretending Detroit and the NAFTA era are unrelated

The bait-and-switch on the first two objectives is fairly easy to see.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2013/07/23/dont_buy_the_right_wing_myth_about_detroit/

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Through the Looking Glass

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The Alberta Oil Sands Have Been Leaking for Nine Weeks

From Mother Jones:  http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2013/07/alberta-oil-sands-have-been-leaking-six-weeks-and-no-one-knows-how-stop-it

By Tue Jul. 23, 2013

Nine weeks ago, an oil leak started at a tar sands extraction operation in Cold Lake, Alberta, and it’s showing no signs of stopping.

On Friday, the Toronto Star reported that an anonymous government scientist who had been to the spill site—which is operated by Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.—warned that the leak wasn’t going away. “Everybody [at the company and in government] is freaking out about this,” the scientist told the Star. “We don’t understand what happened. Nobody really understands how to stop it from leaking, or if they do they haven’t put the measures into place.” The Star reported that 26,000 barrels of watery tar have been removed from the site.

The impacted area spans some 30 acres of swampy forest, said Bob Curran, a spokesperson for the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), which oversees these sites. According to the Star,  pictures and the documents provided by the scientist show that dozens of animals, including loons and beavers, have been killed, and some 60,000 pounds of contaminated vegetation have been removed. (You can see the pictures at the Toronto Star‘s website.)

Curran, confirmed to Mother Jones that the leak was ongoing as of Tuesday afternoon and said AER was working with the company on a plan to contain the damage. He added that he couldn’t make a firm assessment of what caused the leak until after AER had completed its investigation. “We don’t get into probable causes,” he explained. But he did say that AER was concerned, adding that the leak was “very uncommon—which is why we’ve responded the way we have.”

In response to specific questions about the spill, the company sent Mother Jones a previously prepared statement: “The areas have been secured and the emulsion is being managed with clean up, recovery and reclamation activities well underway. The presence of emulsion on the surface does not pose a health or human safety risk. The sites are located in a remote area which has restricted access to the public. The emulsion is being effectively cleaned up with manageable environmental impact. Canadian Natural has existing groundwater monitoring in place and we are undertaking aquatic and sediment sampling to monitor and mitigate any potential impacts. As part of our wildlife mitigation program, wildlife deterrents have been deployed in the area to protect wildlife…We are investigating the likely cause of the occurrence, which we believe to be mechanical.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2013/07/alberta-oil-sands-have-been-leaking-six-weeks-and-no-one-knows-how-stop-it

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